Wine Cellar Cooling Unit Buying Guide | Wine Enthusiast
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Wine Cellar Cooling Unit Buying Guide

Creating your dream wine cellar is an exciting, rewarding experience, but it demands more than a passion for the perfect pour and pretty wine racks. Wine has a handful of true enemies that can affect its flavor and cause it to spoil—with improper heat and humidity levels being two of the most damaging. Choosing the right size and style cooling unit for your wine cellar is crucial to protecting your collection. To help you navigate the options, we’ve broken down the four main types of cooling units along with their pros and cons to help you decide which unit is best for your wine storage needs.

Jump To: The Four Types of Wine Cellar Cooling Units

Why Do I Need Wine Cellar Cooling System—Won’t an Air Conditioner Do?

While an air conditioner can obviously cool your cellar, it’s not designed to consistently maintain the proper temperature and humidity levels needed to protect and preserve and age wine. Wine cooling units are specially engineered to remove hot air from the cellar, blow cold air in and evaporate water to decrease humidity. They are also engineered to cool slower than standard HVAC systems, and minimize vibrations, which are often associated with regular home air conditioning units. With these critical differences, a wine cooling unit is simply non-negotiable for protecting your prized wines.

Learn More: Can I Use an Air Conditioner to Cool My Wine Cellar?

The Four Types of Wine Cellar Cooling Units

Cooling Units - Through-the-wall


This unit is the most akin to a traditional window AC unit. Instead of a window, it’s placed directly within the cellar wall, sending cool air into the room from the front, while expelling warm air from the back. Unlike flat vents in ducted systems, it protrudes several inches from the wall making it hard to hide, so aesthetically it’s the least attractive option. It also takes up the most room, so you’ll lose some bottle storage space. That said, this type is only powerful enough for small or medium-sized cellars.

You also need to consider the adjacent area that the hot air is being expelled into. If it’s inside your house, it needs to be a room that can handle warm temperatures, or it can go directly outside if that’s an option in your home. You also need a power source and condensation drain, but this can simply be a bucket. This unit generates noise, comparable to a window air conditioner, in both the cellar and the room where the heat is being exhausted into. However, it’s the easiest to install. If you’re handy, you can do it yourself by simply cutting a hole in the wall and inserting the unit—and it’s the cheapest option.


  • Most affordable option
  • An HVAC technician is not required for installation
  • It’s the easiest to install, with no ducting or line sets


  • Generates the most noise compared to ducted systems
  • Requires a designated space to vent warm air outside of the cellar
  • Visible on the wall and takes up the most space in the cellar
  • Suitable only for small to medium-sized wine rooms
  • Integrated humidification is not available for dry climate conditions
Cooling Units - Ducted Self-Contained

Ducted Self-Contained

This system is the most flexible in terms of wine cellar design and unit installation. This self-contained unit houses the evaporator, fans, compressor, condenser, and controls and connects to the cellar through insulated flexible ductwork. Flat supply and return vent grilles are the only thing showing in the cellar, so if you don’t want a bulky and visible evaporator, this may be your best option if you have a small to medium-sized cellar. It’s also much quieter than the through-the-wall system and it allows for the possibility of integrated humidification control to ensure optimal temperature and humidity levels for your wine. Although pricier than the through-the-wall system, it’s still cost-effective because you don’t need a licensed HVAC technician to install it (although an experienced contractor is recommended).


  • Lower price point compared to a ducted or ductless split
  • No bulky, unattractive unit inside the cellar
  • Quieter operation compared to a through-the-wall system
  • Only the supply and return vent grilles are visible from within the cellar
  • Integrated humidifier is available


  • Requires space near the cellar to house the self-contained unit, which is large and emits a significant amount of noise
  • Suitable only for small to medium-sized wine rooms
  • More expensive than a through-the-wall system
Cooling Units - Ducted Split

Ducted Split

This option also features flat vents inside the cellar with none of the bulky units showing. What sets the ducted split apart from the ducted self-contained system is the separation of the evaporator and condenser into two distinct units. This allows the loud condenser to be positioned outside of the home, ensuring a quiet and vibration-free wine room, making it the quietest type of cooling unit available. It also features integrated humidification control to ensure ideal temperature and humidity levels for your wine. However, it’s more expensive than the previous options due to the system’s complexity, which also means you’ll need a licensed HVAC technician to install it. Still, it’s typically regarded as the best wine cellar cooling system available and is suitable for wine rooms of all sizes.


  • Works in rooms of all sizes
  • The quietest unit available
  • Only the supply and return vent grilles are visible in the cellar
  • Integrated humidifier is available as an add on


  • Requires space near the cellar to house the air handler
  • A licensed HVAC technician needs to install it, making it time-consuming and expensive 
  • One of the priciest options
Cooling Units - Ductless Split

Ductless Split

This system is flexible in terms of cellar size, as it can work in any type or size of room. Like the ducted split, it features separate evaporator and condenser units, and the condenser can be placed outside the home, connected through a line set and communication cable. Unlike the ducted split system though, no air handler is required in a space adjacent to the cellar. Still, because the evaporator is in the cellar, this unit takes up space there. Like the through-the-wall unit, it’s not ideal if looks and limited space are a concern—although there are ceiling-mount units. While quieter than a through-the-wall unit, the ductless split still produces some noise, and requires a licensed HVAC technician to install it.


  • Suitable only for small- to large-sized rooms
  • The condenser is outside of the cellar and can be positioned outside the home
  • Versatile mounting options for the evaporator on the wall or ceiling
  • No ducting or air handler


  • The evaporator is visible in the cellar
  • A licensed HVAC technician needs to install it, making it time-consuming and expensive
  • Produces more noise than the ducted split or ducted and self-contained units

Choosing Your Wine Cooling Unit

As you can see, there are various factors to consider when selecting a wine cellar cooling unit. This is a big investment no matter which one you decide on, and you’ll want to make sure you purchase the right one for your wine and your home. Think about the size and scope of your collection (and even your future wine collection); the location of your cellar (Ideally away from sunlight and heat; the room’s construction, including the presence of glass walls or windows; the adjacent rooms; and the climate where your home is located. And remember that noise and vibrations can also negatively affect wine preservation.

Here are some important things to keep in mind as you decide:

  • Wine cellar size and capacity requirements
  • Installation constraints and space availability
  • Energy efficiency and operating costs
  • Budget
  • Noise levels
  • Aesthetic considerations
  • Precision in temperature and humidity control
  • Lighting and sunlight exposure
  • Climate where your home is located

The good thing is you don’t have to make this weighty decision on your own. Our expert Wine Storage Consultants can take you through a comprehensive cooling calculation to determine which system is right for you and your cellar and guide you through all the critical details like proper ventilation and insulation when building your wine cellar.

Call 855.406.9384 to speak to a Wine Storage Consultant.

Cooling Units - Comparison Chart
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